The Walking Dead’s Josh McDermitt is never afraid to make himself the butt of a joke. Just take one look at the fierce, 1980s hockey star’s ape drape that he has been rocking since he first joined the cast of AMC’s apocalyptic zombie drama in 2014. This fearlessness is exactly what attracted McDermitt to the role of Eugene Porter. Eugene is the group’s engineer with an emotional spectrum as wide as a single strand of angel hair pasta.
“He was so different from anything that I ever played, and a lot of the characters I play are loud and boisterous, big and crazy… the party animal,” McDermitt said of his supporting roles and appearances on shows like TV Land’s Retired At 35, AMC’s Mad Men, and TBS’s Angie Tribeca. Eugene’s loquacious and inordinately technical dialogue — such as “I cannot abide a reality where you are the chosen navigator over a son of the South who has successfully negotiated the travails and vagaries of journeys both real and virtual” — would prove to be a breath of fresh air for the actor.
Despite this emotional immaturity, McDermitt has been able to bring a lot of depth to the mullet and cargo shorts-wearing, fake scientist, even jerking a few tears during his seemingly suicidal mission to draw the Saviors off his friends’ trail in the Season Six finale, Last Day on Earth. “There definitely felt like a goodbye moment where, even though I knew it was Glenn and Abraham who were going to die, I kinda felt like, ‘Man, did I just say goodbye? Are the writers going to change that and make it Eugene?’ I was a little scared to be honest.” But it was the touching embrace with Sergeant Abraham Ford, played by Michael Cudlitz, that tested the audience’s emotional maturity, separating the criers from those completely dead inside.
McDermitt has had nearly three years to grow accustomed to his odd hairstyle on The Walking Dead. At first, the Tennessee Top Hat gave him pause, calling it “abhorrent” and telling the others on set to take him to “Walmart to buy a hat, man, because this is disgusting!”
Now, McDermitt loves his Kentucky Waterfall, encouraging his costars to “drink from the Mullet of Life” to renew themselves and their spirits during the long, hot shooting days in Georgia.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.